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Old 02-26-2010, 12:48 PM   #121
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The topic of this thread is a tax on dividend and capital gains income (presumably on assets outside of 401ks and IRAs). Even with this tax, dividends and capital gains would be taxed at lower rates than regular labor income. But somehow you've converted this tax into a "cap" on the possible earnings of engineers and accountants, doctors and lawyers (the likely goals of your top 5%). I don't get it. Why would a HS kid see a tax on dividends and then conclude it's not worth the effort to earn $150k per year as an accountant?
You are correct, it has drifted from the OP. But not entirely unrelated - it is mostly those high income earners that are going to have significant dividends, so it is a further limit on what they can earn with the money they have saved and invested from their hard work. I'm not saying it is a huge disincentive, but all these marginal disincentives add up.



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At the very top end of the spectrum, the disparity is clearly too wide to be the result of hard work, it's mostly dumb luck.
Really? I'm not so sure - is it really so unexpected that the top 5% of earners would be making an average of $540,000? Or 1.6M for the top 1%? And those numbers will be high because some of those are no doubt through luck. I'd like to see the median number.

I'm not sure what you would consider 'good' numbers. Let's say half of that. Would you really want to tell a 21 YO that even if they work hard and are the most successful (or even luckiest) person in a group of 20 others, that they are unlikely to make more than $270,000 a year? Because we just don't think it's right for some to make much more than others, no matter what the reason? I dunno, but I don't think I want to do that.

Another thing is, I've read that those top 1% and 5% rotate around. Might be a business that had a good year after barely breaking even for the past 5 years. You want to 'punish' that person for their success after so much hard work? It is different than someone making $540,000 5 years in a row.

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Lots of the dumb luck is currently funneled through capital gains rates, which are lower than regular income rates. Is that the best tax policy? I don't like the idea of telling those bright HS kids they'll have to pay 25% on their six figure wages so hedge fund managers can pay 15% on their nine figure bonuses.
Well, this gets to my often-stated dislike of the complexity of our tax code. It would be tough to make 'fair' under the best of circumstances, and our twisted, illogical, counter-productive tax code just makes it worse. It makes almost any discussion of overall 'fairness' pointless. A sales tax in place of an income tax makes much more sense to me. But that's another story.

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Old 02-26-2010, 01:09 PM   #122
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I see a lot of concern about taxes. I've seen little about cutting spending.

You can't cut taxes without cutting spending. In fact, even if we left taxes as they are, we still have to cut spending (the whole debt/deficit thing).

Or we could pull an Argentina.
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Old 02-26-2010, 02:10 PM   #123
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But since ~ half the people pay no Federal Taxes (yes, they pay other taxes), or actually get credits, then it seems like it *is* mathematically possible for most of the taxpayers (~25%) to be paying half of their income in taxes. Depends on the Fed versus 'other' bite though. But unlikely I think, due to the distribution of that top half.
I don't think we have any disagreement here. I addressed this point in another post. I am in favor of having every citizen pay for the government they helped put in place.

But I was responding to a comment that said the typical person pays half in taxes and the wealthy pay more. That statement is simply not possible unless you define "typical" as "a minority".
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Old 02-26-2010, 02:28 PM   #124
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Does it [income inequality] need 'fixing'?
Probably not. In underdeveloped countries great income inequality has been shown to facilitate social unrest. In developed countries, that is less clear. But whether income inequality encourages growth or discord largely depends on income mobility, or at least the perception of mobility. The US has high income mobility so inequality probably facilitates growth.
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Old 02-26-2010, 02:37 PM   #125
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Tax Year 2007 - Federal Income Tax

Percentiles Ranked by AGI Threshold on Percentage of Federal
AGI Percentiles Personal Income Tax Paid
Top 1% $410,096 40.42%
Top 5% $160,041 60.63%
Top 10% $113,018 71.22%
Top 25% $66,532 86.59%
Top 50% $32,879 97.11%
Bottom 50% <$32,879 2.89%

Note: AGI is Adjusted Gross Income
Source: Internal Revenue Service
from National Taxpayers Union - Who Pays Income Taxes?

But this table doesn't give you the effective tax rate for each category - what % of the income in that category went to pay federal income taxes.

According to this table, in 2007 those lower 50% of households filing taxes are making less than $33K! And those are the folks paying almost no Federal Income taxes.

Audrey
The govt is QUITE IGNORANT to think that the wealthier folks are TOO STUPID to drop their income down enough to avoid any extra taxes.....
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Old 02-26-2010, 02:42 PM   #126
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The govt is QUITE IGNORANT to think that the wealthier folks are TOO STUPID to drop their income down enough to avoid any extra taxes.....
If that were the case they wouldn't already be paying 60% of the taxes.
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Old 02-26-2010, 03:09 PM   #127
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Originally Posted by Independent View Post

The topic of this thread is a tax on dividend and capital gains income (presumably on assets outside of 401ks and IRAs). Even with this tax, dividends and capital gains would be taxed at lower rates than regular labor income. But somehow you've converted this tax into a "cap" on the possible earnings of engineers and accountants, doctors and lawyers (the likely goals of your top 5%). I don't get it. Why would a HS kid see a tax on dividends and then conclude it's not worth the effort to earn $150k per year as an accountant?

We're sliding into the broader topic of graduated taxes in general. I see a wide disparity in income and wealth in the US. I think that graduated taxes beat the alternative, so I expect to see more taxes from the higher income end. As the income disparity grows, the tax disparity will grow. To me they are linked, I can't complain about the concentration of taxes while ignoring the concentration of income.

At the very top end of the spectrum, the disparity is clearly too wide to be the result of hard work, it's mostly dumb luck. Lots of the dumb luck is currently funneled through capital gains rates, which are lower than regular income rates. Is that the best tax policy? I don't like the idea of telling those bright HS kids they'll have to pay 25% on their six figure wages so hedge fund managers can pay 15% on their nine figure bonuses.
I agree we do have a large disparity in income in this country. The marginal utility of an additional $ of income is much lower for somebody making a $1 million than for somebody making $100K and way less important than for somebody making $10/hour with a kid. So I think the progressive nature of the taxes is a good thing, and I am not anxious to change it-- nor do I believe that having a wide disparity in income is a particularly bad thing.

I also think we have to look at overall federal taxes not just income taxes. Social Security is a very regressive tax, not paid by either those earning very high wages, nor by retired folks. Medicare tax is not quite as bad but close.

The obscene complexities of the system result in massive discrepancy between people making similar incomes. I think this is a very bad result which leads me to support simplification ideas like a national sales taxes, with a poverty exemption.

However, the reality is as much support as such proposal may have in forum like this, there isn't a snowball chance of getting in passed in the next 4 years and not much in 10 years.

I don't think we have 10 years to address the fiscal problems the country has faced. For the last decade both sides got their way, the Republicans got lower taxes and the Democrats got more entitlements and since it didn't involve sacrifice their was tacit bipartisan support for both. (I am generalizing here I don't want to turn this into political discussion)

At this point I think we are left with choosing between the lesser of 3 evils, running massive deficits, raising taxes, or cutting spending. It is easy to say cut spending, I think Years2Go showed that it is hard to actually identify what should be cut, much less get the political will to actually do it. Not to mention if there ever was a time to make an argument for Keynesian spending the last couple of years have been it. So that basically leave raising taxes or increasing the deficit in the next couple of years. Given those two choices I vote for taxes. I'd say that increasing the taxes on dividends while a bad idea, is less bad than the alternatives.
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Old 02-26-2010, 03:32 PM   #128
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If that were the case they wouldn't already be paying 60% of the taxes.
Some of them don't have a choice, like the big salary folks. However, I have a fair number of clients that own businesses that can easily change what they pay themselves.......

The tax code is the issue.........a flat tax would make sure everyone pays something...........whether that is fair or not is in the eyes of the beholder...........
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Old 02-26-2010, 08:04 PM   #129
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I'd say that increasing the taxes on dividends while a bad idea, is less bad than the alternatives.
It's good to have that issue settled!

Now, let's make an effort to get ahead of the curve. What should the next new source of funds for gov't spending be? A new tax? An increase in the rate of an existing tax? Seizure of assets (wealth tax)?

When we finally arrive at a 100% tax rate for all, what will we do then to facilitate additional, necessary increases in gov't spending?
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Old 02-26-2010, 09:31 PM   #130
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I am drawn more and more to the concept of a flat tax with no exemptions (except a poverty level base) for anything. If people want to have children, that's their decision (we chose to), if they want to own a house, that's also their decision. I would also do away with all tax free income - no more muni bonds or the equivalent. No loopholes of any kind - a simple half page tax return - what did you earn, here is the tax rate, this is what you paid, this is what you owe. No speacial rates for dividends, stock transactions, etc. No Roth IRAs, no exemptions of any kind. Will it ever happen - no.

End of diatribe.
but determining what you earned is the trick. it is easy if your only income is from a job, but what happens when you buy an piece of investment real estate? is all the rent collected added to your what you earn? do you get to deduct maintenance and repair expenses from the collected rent before adding? what about depreciation? and then what about running a small business? you see, the complexity is in determining just what it is that you earned.


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A sales tax in place of an income tax makes much more sense to me. But that's another story.

-ERD50
well if you want the people who have higher incomes to be picking up more of the tax burden this wont do it. this will be a tax more like FICA is now, letting the high income earners off the hook and paying less of the fed taxes collected. this would just widen the already large disparity between the high income earners and everyone else and may lead to a class war
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Old 02-26-2010, 09:32 PM   #131
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There may be some people who have high incomes because of large inheritances - that's what I would call dumb luck. Anyone who started with very little and created a lot of wealth almost always does it through hard work, willingness to take far more risk than the average person, very long hours and, in many cases, a lot more brains than those at the bottom of the scale. I'm sorry if this is not politically correct, but you if have no ambition, no education and no willingness to work hard, the only way luck will help you is if you win the lottery. Your chances are far better of getting hit by a meteorite.

I don't think Ross Perot, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, etc., got where they are by dumb luck. OTOH, if Donald Trump's father had not been a real estate magnate in NYC, I don't think the Donald would have done as well as he has.

Look at all the owners of small stores who put in un-godly hours and end up with a chain of stores - they become millionaires. How about all the folks who buy one investment property, then another, etc? That's not dumb luck, that's hard work. I have no proof, but I'll bet that the top 5% (which i think I saw starts at $160K?) are more the result of hard work than luck of any kind. OTOH, I was lucky that I had parents who valued education, pushed me in school and had high standards. That was luck of birth - but nothing we can do about that except to make education available to all, which we do.

I still favor the flat tax as the best way to raise large amounts of revenue and cut out all the gaming and fraud that goes on now.
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Old 02-26-2010, 09:44 PM   #132
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well if you want the people who have higher incomes to be picking up more of the tax burden this wont do it. this will be a tax more like FICA is now, letting the high income earners off the hook and paying less of the fed taxes collected. this would just widen the already large disparity between the high income earners and everyone else and may lead to a class war
This is assuming that individuals with extremely high incomes pay taxes at a higher overall rate than the poor Joe who works for a living and earns less than $100K. That's been shown again and again to be untrue. The truly rich have the resources to hire plenty of help to minimize thwir taxes, and they do. Under a flat tax with no exemptions, the rich would pay a much higher total amount than they do now, to include total burden. The percentage may be the same across the board, but 20% of $1,000,000 is $200K, and 20% of $70K is $14K. The philosophy of the value of those dollars to each party is another issue. FYI, I use TurboTax and it's a pretty decent program for folks with non-complex returns.
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Old 02-26-2010, 09:59 PM   #133
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RE: a National Sales Tax...

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well if you want the people who have higher incomes to be picking up more of the tax burden this wont do it. this will be a tax more like FICA is now, letting the high income earners off the hook and paying less of the fed taxes collected. this would just widen the already large disparity between the high income earners and everyone else and may lead to a class war
In addition to what Beowulf pointed out, the plans for a real NST to replace the income tax calls for a "pre-bate" to offset taxes for the first $X of spending (which is the same as $X of income for low income earners). So that warps the curve to look more like the traditional 'progressive' tax system. The difference being that we could actually infer something from the curve, which we can't do by looking at the current marginal rates and brackets, because of all the exemptions/loopholes/credits, etc.

It ain't gonna happen though, and neither will any other meaningful tax reform.

-ERD50
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Old 02-27-2010, 12:42 AM   #134
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well if you want the people who have higher incomes to be picking up more of the tax burden this wont do it. this will be a tax more like FICA is now, letting the high income earners off the hook and paying less of the fed taxes collected. this would just widen the already large disparity between the high income earners and everyone else and may lead to a class war
This is assuming that individuals with extremely high incomes pay taxes at a higher overall rate than the poor Joe who works for a living and earns less than $100K. That's been shown again and again to be untrue. The truly rich have the resources to hire plenty of help to minimize thwir taxes, and they do. Under a flat tax with no exemptions, the rich would pay a much higher total amount than they do now, to include total burden. The percentage may be the same across the board, but 20% of $1,000,000 is $200K, and 20% of $70K is $14K. The philosophy of the value of those dollars to each party is another issue. FYI, I use TurboTax and it's a pretty decent program for folks with non-complex returns.
well i think you misread my post cus the part of my post you quoted was talking about a national sales tax, not a flat tax. this is what i said in response to your post about a flat tax
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but determining what you earned is the trick. it is easy if your only income is from a job, but what happens when you buy an piece of investment real estate? is all the rent collected added to your what you earn? do you get to deduct maintenance and repair expenses from the collected rent before adding? what about depreciation? and then what about running a small business? you see, the complexity is in determining just what it is that you earned.
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Old 02-27-2010, 01:00 AM   #135
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RE: a National Sales Tax...

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well if you want the people who have higher incomes to be picking up more of the tax burden this wont do it. this will be a tax more like FICA is now, letting the high income earners off the hook and paying less of the fed taxes collected. this would just widen the already large disparity between the high income earners and everyone else and may lead to a class war
In addition to what Beowulf pointed out, the plans for a real NST to replace the income tax calls for a "pre-bate" to offset taxes for the first $X of spending (which is the same as $X of income for low income earners). So that warps the curve to look more like the traditional 'progressive' tax system. The difference being that we could actually infer something from the curve, which we can't do by looking at the current marginal rates and brackets, because of all the exemptions/loopholes/credits, etc.

It ain't gonna happen though, and neither will any other meaningful tax reform.

-ERD50
beowulf wasnt talking about a NST but a flat tax (see my previous post).

but even with the "pre-bate" the NST is not progressive in nature. after said "pre-bate" the lower income people will pay a higher percentage of their incomes in taxes than the higher income people. while the last dollar earned has much lower utility to the high income person than the lower income person the higher income person will pay less tax on it. i think one of the reasons a progressive tax structure is fairer is this fact that the last dollar earned by a high income person has lower utility to him than the last dollar earned does to the lower income person. a couple of other reasons include 1) the higher income person is likely getting a high income due in part to his company/enterprise taking more advantage of the infrastructure the government has provided and 2) he has more to lose if this government collapsed or even if some of the government provided services no longer existed (eg police and fire department).
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Old 02-27-2010, 01:55 AM   #136
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.

I still favor the flat tax as the best way to raise large amounts of revenue and cut out all the gaming and fraud that goes on now.
The flat tax probably wouldn't reduce the complexity or gaming of the system, certainly in the age of computer it isn't difficult to figure out how to pay X+25% over $68,000 or $Y+28% over $137,500. It is as JDW points out figuring out what is the real income.

Using your 20% example (which is probably too high)

Joe officer worker get paid $50,000
Robert my handymen get paid $2,000 from me and the same from 24 other folks earning a a total of $50,000
My sister the artist sells 50 paintings at $1,000 each also making $50,000
I assume all of these people pay $10,000 taxes?

The guys who sells collectibles on Ebay sell $500,000 worth of bennie babies, cabbage patch dolls, and such. He pays $100,000 taxes is this right?
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Old 02-27-2010, 07:52 AM   #137
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I see a lot of concern about taxes. I've seen little about cutting spending.

You can't cut taxes without cutting spending. In fact, even if we left taxes as they are, we still have to cut spending (the whole debt/deficit thing).

Or we could pull an Argentina.
Oh I tried the cut spending approach several posts back. I got the congressional response...Oh that amount is so small it doesn't matter. Repeat that statement a couple of hundred times, and by golly, looks like we need to raise taxes...
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Old 02-27-2010, 08:09 AM   #138
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I see a lot of concern about taxes. I've seen little about cutting spending.

You can't cut taxes without cutting spending. In fact, even if we left taxes as they are, we still have to cut spending (the whole debt/deficit thing).

Or we could pull an Argentina.

I would LOVE to see a cut in spending... let's start with..

Cut SS in half.... yes, it IS not going to happen... but if we want to address the real problem... this is one of them

Get rid of the unfunded drug program... sorry if you or grandma dies because you can not afford the drugs... (yes, I am serious on this... it is a big cost... if you want it PAY for it)....

Cut some of the other welfare programs... yes, I am mean.... and yes, I have some relatives of an inlaw who is on the system (in fact, many in that family)....

Have a special tax for the war.... if we want to go to war, we should PAY for it... with a special tax... always... yes, we can pay for the common defense with our normal tax... but once a shooting war starts... congress passes a spending bill and then allocates those costs as a special assessment to everybody to pay... this might keep us out of some of the many shooting wars if we knew how much we were paying for them...

There are a lot of other places you could cut... but it requires you to cut services to some... so be it... we are more than helping the truly needy... and helping out a huge number of people....
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Old 02-27-2010, 08:40 AM   #139
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The tax code is the issue.........a flat tax would make sure everyone pays something...........whether that is fair or not is in the eyes of the beholder...........
I wouldn't confuse "flat" with "simple". Six tax brackets isn't what makes our system a mess. It is the myriad deductions, credits, tax favored accounts, special rates on certain income, phaseouts, a springing Alternative Minimum Tax and the like that are the problem. All of these breaks, credits, phaseouts, and special rates create incentives that distort economic decision making and create huge and unnecessary compliance costs. This stuff is way worse in many ways than a progressive marginal rate that tops out at a relatively low 35%.

A simple and consistent tax policy is a better tax policy from a purely economic perspective. So if that is the goal, applying the medicare tax to all income is actually a small step in the right direction. Which brings me all the way back to posts #9 and #17.
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Old 02-27-2010, 08:45 AM   #140
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Oh I tried the cut spending approach several posts back. I got the congressional response...Oh that amount is so small it doesn't matter. Repeat that statement a couple of hundred times, and by golly, looks like we need to raise taxes...
No. The response you got back was a question ("Please identify the spending cuts that would balance the budget without raising taxes") to which we're still waiting an answer.

Here are some rough numbers to help out (because I know you won't look this stuff up on your own). If we were to eliminate every government program in 2010 except National Defense, Social Security, Medicare, and Interest payments we'd spend $2,576,346MM. Tax receipts are budgeted at $2,165,119MM this year. These four budget items are expected to grow to $3,388,427MM by 2015. Tax receipts under the current code hit a pre-recession bubble peak of $2,568,001MM.

So the opening bid is . . . cut every program 100% except the 4 listed above and then cut those 4 by 20%. See how easy that is?
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